Revelation 21:9–13 (NKJV)
John saw the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven in the previous verses. In this passage, he begins to describe it in more details, offering a description of the exterior of the city.
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.Revelation 21:9-13
Again, John records the involvement of one of the angels who poured out the bowls of God’s vengeance. The angel talked with John and invited him to see the bride, the Lamb’s wife. Some speculate that the bride is actually represented by the city, but most feel that the bride inhabits the city instead. Either way, the angel takes John away in the Spirit to a high mountain. From this vantage point, John could see the great city, the New Jerusalem, holy and glorious as it descended from heaven. It was shining like the light reflected from a precious stone, like jasper, but clear as crystal. The walls of the city were thick and tall, with twelve gates, and twelve angels attending the gates. There were names written on each wall (or gate), the names of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Each side of the city had three gates. The gates were three on the north side, three on the east side, three on the south side, and three on the west side. While this description is a bit brief, it describes the awesome image of a gigantic city, perhaps suspended in air, coming down from heaven in one piece, gloriously shining like jewels and holiness from God. This city is perfect, without any of the sinful imperfections of the earth after the fall. It is powerfully bright, and is somewhat reminiscent of the earthly Jerusalem in its layout, with gates on all four sides, and displays the names of the original tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people.
While this city contains the redeemed of all tribes and tongues, nations and peoples, it is still cognizant of the original way that God revealed Himself directly to the people of earth through Israel. After the fall, God did not always speak directly to mankind, but through Israel He did. Therefore, the vehicle through whom God revealed Himself is named on the gates of the city in honor of their role in salvation history. This is just as significant in my mind as the sealing of the 144,000 Jews, showing how God chose a people, provided them a Messiah, and then preserved a remnant for His glory. All will worship Christ and recognize Him as Messiah in this city. His place will be recognized and affirmed, as the saints throughout the ages bow before Him, confessing Him as Lord. But for now, the image of this city from outside is awesome and amazing, and a glimpse into what is to come!
Artwork from https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EJQchD3X0AEPtHt.jpg